by Daniel Olsen
While the Utah State Aggies struggled in 2020, they have a new coach and new expectations in 2021. It’s time to pull out the crystal ball and see just how the upcoming football season will go for USU. With the kickoff of this game being 79 days away, it’s time to start with the preview of the conference home opener against the Boise State Broncos.
Game 4 vs Boise State
This game will kick off at 10 AM Mountain Time on September 25, 2021. The game will be broadcast to a national audience on CBS. This will be the first time in program history that the Aggies will appear on the national CBS channel. While the child CBS Sports Network does a decent job, it doesn’t have the accessibility that the flagship channel does. Maverik Stadium and the beautiful view of Logan, Utah will be visible to the masses.
Boise State leads the all-time series 20-5. The last time the Aggies won was six years ago when they routed the Broncos 52-26. In that game, true freshman quarterback Brett Rhypien and the offence struggled with eight turnovers against USU. He threw five interceptions and there were also three fumbles on the night.
2020-2021 Season in Review
While USU struggled with just one win in 2020, Boise State won the Mountain Division yet again. They finished the regular season undefeated in conference play with the lone loss coming in a barn-burner to BYU. It was the first time in program history that the Cougars had beaten the Broncos in Boise.
In the Mountain West Championship, the Broncos faced off against the undefeated San Jose State Spartans. They were not able to secure their second straight title as the Spartans won 34-20 in Sam Boyd Stadium. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in California, the championship was played in this neutral field where UNLV plays their home games.
Boise State returns 84 percent of their roster. This would be considered a strength for the Broncos. The Aggies, on the other hand, might consider their 83 percent of returning players a weakness. They did, after all, only win one game last year.
The Broncos will continue to be a defensive minded team. This will be an improvement over last year’s team which was spotty at best. The Broncos relied instead on a high octane offense that used trick plays to blitz a mostly easy Mountain West schedule.
If the Broncos can maintain a high level of offense and improve the defense, they will be a tough out in the Mountain West.
The Broncos also have plenty to prove this year under first year head coach Andy Avalos. The former coordinator for the Oregon Ducks is inheriting a team that, along with the rest of the Mountain West Conference, is not in the preseason Phil Steele Top 25.
As always, the offensive line is a concern. The Broncos will need to figure out how to keep their quarterback healthy. They were down to their fifth string quarterback at one point against BYU.
If the Broncos can protect their quarterback, then there might not be a single chink in the armor of the Boise State Broncos. It may be a pretty tall task against Oklahoma State and some of the better Mountain West teams though. They have some great players but it takes either a bevy of four-star guys or a master offensive line coach to get the protection that the best teams enjoy.
Players to watch for
Hank Bachmeier should be the starting quarterback in this game as long as he is healthy. Many Broncos fans felt their season might have had another win had he been healthy throughout last year.
The main target for Bachmeier will be senior wide receiver Khalil Shakir. He was the primary target last year as he caught seven passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns last year against the Aggies.
George Holani will look to command the running game in the backfield. He got to the 100 mark in rushing yards last year vs the Aggies. The rushing touchdown he scored to open the lead to 28-0 at the end of the first half was the icing on the cake.
Boise will be stingy on defense with guys like Riley Whimpey leading the attack. They also bring a key Oregon transfer in Andrew Faoliu. He followed Avalos to Boise and will look to perhaps become a bigger fish in a smaller pond. His numbers were modest in Eugene but he will have a chance to make an impact on the Broncos right away.
Final Score Prediction
The consensus among most Mountain West fans and analysts is that Boise State is the favorite in the Mountain Division. That being said, it would behoove them to beat the Aggies once again in the conference opener if that is their goal.
However, don’t expect a barn burner. It shouldn’t be a nail biter either. Somewhere between two and three scores sounds about right. The Aggies will score early to put some pressure on the Broncos. The physicality of Boise State will wear them out in the second half. They are still a couple years away from competing with Boise under the new system of coach Blake Anderson.
USU 28 Boise State 45
Featured image courtesy Steve Conner, AP